Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Marginal Thinking

I just finished listening to Clayton Christensen’s book How Will You Measure Your Life?  I highly recommend it for anyone trying to prioritize and evaluate one’s own life.  One of the concepts that stuck out to me was the idea of “marginal thinking”.  He suggested that this way of thinking can cause us to make choices which seem good in the near term but which lead to terrible outcomes in the long run.  He used comparisons from business to help us see how certain theories apply to our own lives.  One of the companies he discussed was Blockbuster, a company that dominated movies in the 1990s but went bankrupt in 2010 because of its failure to compete with companies like Netflix.  In the early 2000s Blockbuster had the capital and means to do what Netflix was doing, but they decided that marginally it didn’t make sense.  They had higher profit margins with their own business model, so why invest in a business model that would give less return on investment?  Looking at the marginal returns they might expect in the short term suggested that it wasn’t worth it.  But the reason they should have adopted a model similar to Netflix, of course, was that in the longer term their in store model of renting videos and DVDs would completely die.  But they were so shortsighted and marginal in their thinking that they failed to prepare for that future and lost the entire business. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I Am the Vine

This last weekend I spent time trimming our trees which line the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street next to our house.  There was so much to trim that I could only fit a small portion of the cut branches in the trash can, and I threw the remainder over the fence into the corner of the yard for the time being.  Yesterday, two days after cutting them, I sat in our basement office and looked out the window directly at the large pile of tree limbs.  Directly above them just behind the fence I could see the top of one of the large trees that they came from, and the contrast between the branches in the pile and those on the actual tree was stunning.  The leaves attached to the branches on the ground were withered and dried and turning brown, whereas those on the tree were green and clearly thriving.  I was surprised at how quickly those cut branches died.  Even though lying on the grass there they were exposed to the same sunlight and sprinkler water as the tree on the other side of the fence, they were dead and crinkled up. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Nephi's Courage

Yesterday we were reading scriptures as a family, and when we got to 1 Nephi 3:7 I had my youngest son, who can’t yet read, repeat the words as I read so he could take his turn reading.  As I got partway through the verse my two oldest children suddenly burst out into song, “I will go; I will do the things the Lord commands.  I know the Lord provides a way; he wants me to obey.”  They recognized enough the words of that verse to see it was the same as Nephi’s Courage, a favorite primary song about Nephi’s faith and obedience.  It reminded me of my freshman Book of Mormon class at BYU.  When my professor started quoting 1 Nephi 3:7, everyone spontaneously joined in and quoted it together, we all knew the verse by heart.  It was a powerful moment as the Spirit bore witness to us all of the truthfulness of that verse and as we recognized the incredible importance it held for us in our own lives.  I’d like to think it was also a moment of commitment as Nephi’s words became our own and we promised likewise to go and do that which the Lord commanded.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Sacrament and the Prayer of Faith

Perhaps the most succinct instruction on how to obtain the Spirit is this statement in the Doctrine and Covenants: “And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith” (D&C 42:14).  I believe that this is telling us that as we pray with real faith—wherever we may be or whatever we may doing—the Lord will, according to His will, bless us with His Spirit.  The key ingredients are asking and believing; in other words we have to really want to have the Spirit with us to guide us. 

Saturday, August 19, 2017

New and Everlasting

One of the phrases that we often hear in the Church is the “new and everlasting covenant.”  This comes from the Doctrine and Covenants and only appears in a few sections.  The first is in a revelation given shortly after the organization of the Church when the Lord said, “Behold, I say unto you that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this thing; and this is a new and an everlasting covenant, even that which was from the beginning” (D&C 22:1).  The phrase is then used in one of the last sections, D&C 132, in which the Lord spoke about celestial marriage and the need to be married “by the new and everlasting covenant” (v19).  In the previous section we find the phrase “new and everlasting covenant of marriage,” the only time that phrase is used.  From these we gather that marriage plays a prominent role in the new and everlasting covenant, but it does not encompass the whole of it.  Elder Christofferson gave us this succinct definition of what it is: “The new and everlasting covenant is the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, the doctrines and commandments of the gospel constitute the substance of an everlasting covenant between God and man that is newly restored in each dispensation.”

Friday, August 18, 2017

President Monson, Sacrifice, and Temples

In three days it will be President Monson’s 90th birthday, and he has been an apostle now for almost 54 years.  It’s hard to fathom how many people he has ministered to, how many blessings he has given, how many talks he has delivered, how many hospital visits he has made, how many lives he has changed.  A few months ago I was chatting with my neighbor, a non-practicing member of the Church, and I was impressed at how sincerely he praised President Monson.  His father had known the prophet many years ago, and my neighbor told how one time President Monson recognized him in a bank and took the time to sit down and talk with him.  He expressed to me his fervent conviction that President Monson doesn’t just give talks about service and love; he lives it.  When President Monson gave his first conference talk as an apostle, he said, “I pledge my life, all that I may have. I will strive to the utmost of my ability to be what you would want me to be. I am grateful for the words of Jesus Christ, our Savior, when He said: ‘I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him’ (Revelations 3:20).  I earnestly pray, my brothers and sisters, that my life might merit this promise from our Savior.”  Surely he has done that—giving up everything for the cause of Christ—and there’s no question that this promise from Revelation has been fulfilled for him many times over.

Thursday, August 17, 2017


A few years ago I woke up one morning and could hardly move my neck.  Any movement caused incredible pain and I had a hard time even getting out of bed.  It took a Priesthood blessing and a visit to the chiropractor to finally gain some of the movement back.  It was sore for a while but gratefully I was able to gain full control of my neck again.  As I think about that experience I’m led to ponder the scriptural warnings about being stiffnecked.  The dictionary definition of the word has both the literal and spiritual meanings—“having a stiff neck” and “haughty and obstinate”—and I believe the first is symbolic of the second.  I was completely crippled in my progress physically when I couldn’t move my neck and it affected all of the activities I had planned for the day.  In the same manner, being spiritually stiffnecked cripples us in our spiritual progress.  With stiff necks we do not bow to the Lord in humility or receive knowledge from Him because of our pride.  As Ammon taught, “there is none that knoweth these things, save it be the penitent” (Alma 26:21).  Having spiritually stiff necks prevents us from knowing the things of God, and the Lord lamented “this unbelieving and stiffnecked generation” of our day (D&C 5:8).

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Lord's Anger

One of the themes of the Doctrine and Covenants is that the Lord’s anger is upon the wicked of our generation.  In the preface to the book the Lord said in no uncertain terms, “And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth” (D&C 1:13).  He lamented in another revelation to Joseph, "Oh, this unbelieving and stiffnecked generation—mine anger is kindled against them" (D&C 5:8).  In 1831 He said, “For behold, mine anger is kindled against the rebellious, and they shall know mine arm and mine indignation, in the day of visitation and of wrath upon the nations” (D&C 56:1).  Again in the same year He gave us these words: “Yea, verily, I say, hear the word of him whose anger is kindled against the wicked and rebellious” (D&C 63:2).  In another statement He said, “And the anger of God kindleth against the inhabitants of the earth; and none doeth good, for all have gone out of the way” (D&C 82:6).  That is pretty strong language about the Lord’s anger against the wicked. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Chains and the Deliverer

One of the metaphors that is used frequently in modern scripture is that sin is like a "chain" or "cord" that binds us down.  Perhaps the most vivid image is given in the Pearl of Great Price in its frightening description of the adversary: "And he beheld Satan; and he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed, and his angels rejoiced" (Moses 7:26).  Many other passages confirm this idea of Satan binding those who allow it.  Nephi taught us that Satan, when we let him, "leadeth [us] by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever" (2 Nephi 26:22).  He also wrote that if we are not "stirred up unto repentance," then "the devil will grasp [us] with his everlasting chains, and [we] be stirred up to anger, and perish" (2 Nephi 28:19).  He continued by saying that as the devil tried to flatter us and whisper to us falsehoods "until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance" (2 Nephi 28:22).  The more that we sin and succumb to the temptations of the adversary, the harder it is to free ourselves from it.  At some point if we continue there will be "no deliverance," meaning that eventually some must suffer for their own sins if they have not in the end accepted Christ.  But if we will accept His saving power, then we can with the saints "rejoice in [our] redemption" and "acknowledge the Son of God as [our] Redeemer and Deliverer from death and the chains of hell" (D&C 138:23).

Monday, August 14, 2017

Free to Choose

As my seven-year-old is preparing for 2nd grade to start, she has expressed her fears to us and told us she doesn’t want to go.  She didn’t like 1st grade because her teachers, according to her, often got upset with her too often.  So now she is afraid that she won’t like her teachers in 2nd grade and that because of that, she can’t have a good year.  My wife has tried to teach her that whether or not she gets a teacher she likes need not determine whether or not she has a good year in school.  Only she can decide to have a good year.  It’s a simple principle and yet one that it so hard for all of us; even though we often can’t choose much about our surroundings or chances in life, we can always choose to do right.  And that choice ultimately is the choice to be happy, no matter what sorrows and difficulties are forced upon us by life.